Friday, March 12, 2010

"Hi Pacman, I'm Jewish!" - 30 ROCK, OFFICE, and PARKS thoughts!

I just posted my review of Green Zone (check it out!), but wanted to get down some thoughts on Thursday night comedy before heading out for the weekend ...

- It's amazing how these various pop-cultural mass-consensus ideas spread in the internet age. A couple months ago, everyone was saying that 30 ROCK had gone down the tubes. It was hurting beyond repair. It was a shell of its former self. Was there some truth to the idea that 30 Rock was not living up to the quality of earlier seasons? Sure. But ... was the show still funny and one of the better comedies on TV? Yes. Look, as a longtime 30 Rock fan, I too was feeling a little disappointed with the show lately. At the same time, I knew that all it would take was one great episode to help turn things around. And guess what? Last night, we got that great episode. This was a stellar ep of 30 Rock, with every storyline generating several genuine, laugh-out-loud moments. From Jack grappling with the death of Don Geiss and the takeover of NBC Universal by a cable company from Philadelphia (hmm, not based on reality, right?), to Kenneth's donkey spasms, this was a great half-hour of comedy. Liz's dating situation, Jenna training Tracy to become a genuine actor, Elizabeth Banks as a cable news maven who's dating Jack. Everything in this episode clicked, and there were probably a dozen if not more classic quotes to be found. Kenneth's Fatal Attraction reference, Tracy's flashbacks to his diverse acting career, Jack's lament about a New York company being bought out by one from Philadelphia - all gold. Great episode of 30 Rock - probably the best of the season to date.

My Grade: A-

- Meanwhile, one week after everyone was praising THE OFFICE for it's funny and emotional baby episode, everyone is now back to trashing the show as being unfunny, a shell of its former self, etc. Sound familiar? The fact is, last night's episode was definitely not the show's best effort. And the heavy emphasis on the Sabre storyline did kind of draw attention to the fact that that particular plotline has been something of a bust. Kathy Bates' character is cartoonish and a little bland / generic, and hasn't really brought much to the table. And the whole thing feels like a less-exciting retread of the much better, much funnier Michael Scott Paper Company storyline from last year. Meanwhile, I really liked the Andy-Erin romance at first, but in this episode it took an odd turn, as Erin now seems to be morphing from quirky-yet-likable girl next door into a genuinely weird character. The whole thing with her live-in foster brother was just out of left field. I'd much prefer just watching an Andy-Erin relationship go through the natural awkwardness of those two getting together and not have some other "wacky" plot elements thrown in. Similarly, I definitely think the show would benefit from more Daryll, but having him randomly promoted from the warehouse was a bit much, and very sudden.

That said, I'm not all that worried about The Office in general. Even at its somewhat advanced age, the show is clearly still capable of greatness (see: last week). And there are still plenty of great character moments, throwaway gags, etc. that keep me hooked and keep me entertained. This episode was not a high point for The Office, but let's not write-off the show just yet. And even this episode, which seemed off at times, featured the glorious return of Todd Packer. So yes this one, certainly, wasn't all bad.

My Grade: B

- Now, here's a pop-cult meme we can all agree on: PARKS AND RECREATION is pretty awesome now. This entire season of the show has been knocking it out of the park, and the show just feels more confident, more sure of itself, with each passing week. This week's ep didn't crack me up quite as much as other recent installments, but it did serve as further evidence that the show is just in a really good groove. In fact, this ep showed that even with an only so-so main plot (Leslie assembling a task force to catch a pesky opossum that's been plaguing Pawnee's golf courses), Parks has now built up its supporting cast so well that there are any number of places where the comedy and ongoing plotlines can come from. I mean, April and Andy is now being compared to the early days of Jim-Pam, and while totally different, there's a similar sweetness and "will-they-or-won't-they?" vibe. Chris Pratt is funnier every week, too. And Ron Swanson - the "Swanson Code" was just hilarious and awesome. Man, Nick Offerman and Alec Baldwin need to work together. Crossover, anyone? Yep, there was so much going on in the periphery of this episode - it really did have the feel of a great Simpsons episode or something. Hmm, mere coincidence that this episode was written by former Simpsons showrunner Mike Scully? Probably not.

My Grade: A-

- I haven't seen this week's COMMUNITY yet, but it's another show that's been on a hot streak of late.

Alright - I am officially ready for the weekend. Should have an ALICE IN WONDERLAND review ready soon, and a lot more. Stay tuned!

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